Windsor woman describes vacation gone wrong after contracting COVID-19

Don’t travel internationally unless you think you can handle being alone with COVID-19, says Windsor resident Tracy Kell, whose romantic getaway to Cuba turned into an ordeal.

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If Tracy Kell could go back in time a few weeks, she’d probably advise her past self to cancel her trip to Cuba.

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The 43-year-old Windsor resident has been sharing her disastrous travel experience after she fell ill with COVID-19 while on a romantic getaway with her husband.

“Hindsight is 20/20, of course,” said Kell, now back home and given the all-clear by her doctor and Health Canada.

“I don’t blame Cuba by any means. I just think I was too eager to go on a vacation. I felt safe. We’re both double vaccinated. But with all the uncertainty …”

Kell trailed off as she reflected on the ordeal that started her new year. “There’s no rulebook for what you do if you’re in Cuba, or the Dominican Republic, and you get COVID. You’re kind of on your own.”

Parents of two, Kell and her husband planned their vacation months ago: They try to make a trip to the resort community of Varadero every year.

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Tracy Kell (left) and her husband Joel Morris (right) at their home in Windsor on Jan. 14, 2022. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

“We just go to relax,” Kell explained. “It’s like our kid-free time.”

They arrived in Cuba on Dec. 30, with their return flight booked for Jan. 6.

But the day after their arrival, Kell started noticing a sore throat. That evening, she became feverish.

“Then it got pretty bad. I don’t remember much from that night,” Kell said.

The couple had obtained some rapid antigen tests, which showed Kell was positive for COVID-19. The next day, the resort’s doctor conducted a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on Kell, which confirmed the result.

“From that point on, it was a whirlwind,” Kell said. She was transported away from the resort and put into a quarantine hospital, where she was required to remain until she had a negative PCR test.

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“I must have had the Omicron variant, because I felt sick for only two days. It wasn’t scary bad,” Kell said.

Her husband — who still tested negative — was not allowed to be with her.

As the days passed and the time of their return flight drew near, Kell told her husband to leave Cuba without her.

“I didn’t want him to stay and end up getting sick,” Kell said. “He couldn’t come and see me. So I said, ‘Just go home and be with the kids…. There’s nothing you can do.’

“I’m sure he would rather have stayed, but I figured that if he got COVID, it’d be even worse.”

Tracy Kell (right) of Windsor with her husband Joel Morris (left) onboard a plane for their trip to Varadero, Cuba, on Dec. 30, 2021. Photo by Tracy Kell /Windsor Star

On Jan. 10, a PCR test finally gave Kell a negative result.

She took the soonest flight available that day back to Canada, and spent the rest of the week self-isolating at her Windsor home.

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Kell works in accounting. Her first day back at the office in 2022 was on Friday.

“I’ve had four negative tests and it’s been more than 10 days since I had symptoms,” she explained.

Asked if she has advice for other would-be travellers planning on international trips during the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kell replied: “Everybody is going to do what they want. But if you plan on going, you need to be prepared. You need extra money, and you have to be self-reliant.

“If you’re in a group, and you test positive, but everybody else is negative you’re going to be separated. Don’t go unless you’re 100 per cent confident in yourself in that situation.”

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All that said, Kell still loves Cuba. She and her husband have an idea of bringing their kids along next time — a family vacation for Christmas 2022.

“But if there are any travel advisories still in effect, and you still need PCR tests to come back, forget it. We’ll cancel.

“I mean, fingers crossed. Things change so fast these days.”

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